HE SAID SHE SAID BOOK CLUB
Childrenâ€™s library: 4-7 I Hate School, by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross Honor Brown hates school, the worms the dinner ladies feed them, the smelly sand-pit, the killer sharks in the water tray. But what do you know? Come the end of year six, she is in tears at the thought of leaving. For all who are starting school this week, and for their parents who need a laugh. The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean A bittersweet, guffaw-out-loud story from the most distinctive partnership in picture books today. Features their trademark detached parents - dad is central to the story but is so immersed in his newspaper it all just happens around him, while mum takes three pages to notice her daughter's mouth is gagged. Don't miss the afterword.
How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers A beautifully told, beautifully painted story about reaching for the stars. The little boy loves star-gazing so much he wants to hold a star of his own. It's a scheme made for disappointment, but after setbacks, he does succeed. Jeffers' story-telling satisfies while still leaving room for a child's own imagination to decide what actually happened. Utterly Me, Clarice Bean by Lauren Child Lauren Child is a star in the picture- book market and plenty of children will already know Clarice Bean, her offthe-wall heroine for the under-eights. Now Child has written a full-length story about Clarice and her obsession with detective novels, an obsession that proves useful when strange things start happening, the school homework project competition is announced and her best friend disappears. Although this longer novel is very welcome, with fewer pictures, the charm of our heroine is somewhat diminished and it is perhaps Child's misfortune to be publishing at a time when there is already a glut of books for this age group featuring ditsy Bridget Jones-style eight-year-olds. But for a few good belly laughs, Clarice Bean wins hands down every time.
Tell Me If You Like . . . by Gerard Greverand, illus Magali Bardos This one will tickle the fancy of adults as well as kids. As is so often the case with the best children's books, it is based on a very simple idea. It takes the form of a series of questions: Tell me if you like wobbling a loose tooth with your tongue? Tell me if you like rummaging about in your nose for the biggest bogey? Tell me if you like smelling the warm, wet road after a storm? There is literally page after page in this vein, ranging from the lyrical to the downright silly and even the philosophical - with witty illustrations that amply assist in jogging the memory banks. It whisked me straight back to my own childhood thoughts, sensations and experiences, and also gripped the imagination of my seven-year-old who was inspired to start compiling her own lists of likes. Is It Because? by Tony Ross The latest from the author of the I Want my Potty series is a book about bullying. The central character is a young boy who is being picked on by a certain Peregrine Frog. Fortunately, he has an ally in a clever dog, whom he asks all the questions about why these horrible things are happening to him. Brightly coloured characters on pale watercolour backgrounds act out all the boy's musings about the bully If only the ending were true - that the bully's victim always comes out confident and on top. But still, this is a book that even the very small will understand, and all will appreciate the flights of imagining.
HE SAID SHE SAID BOOK CLUB
Childrenâ€™s library: 8-11 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury A very modern "Alice" for the modern child that dusts off the Victorian fustiness of the book. Some adults will regret this approach and the passing of the dark Tenniel drawings but this is a perfect introduction to the story for younger readers and while Oxenbury's fresh as a daisy illustrations make the story completely accessible they certainly don't Disneyfy it in any way.
Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg A child's school day told in verse through from going to school to bedtime. That doesn't make it sound all that interesting, but Ahlberg's easy-to-read poems are funny, sad and absolutely accurate when it comes to emotion. From the title poem about a teacher at the end of her tether, through the pernickety parent complaining about her son's lost possessions to the quietly devastating Small Quarrel, this is a brilliant collection that not only makes children love poetry but gets them writing their own.
The Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo It is 1907, life on the Sicily Isles is bleak and difficult and it seems likely that Laura and her father will be forced to retreat to the mainland. Even the cow stops milking. Morpurgo's book is written with his customary quiet authority as it charts the battle between man and nature and the cruelties and beauties of the sea and its creatures.
Walkabout by James Vance Marshall A culture clash of epic proportions ensues in this classic novel that sees two privileged English kids abandoned in the Australian outback and forced to fend for themselves.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl Truly scrumptious tale of a boy called Charlie Bucket who wins a golden ticket, entitling him to a day out at Willy Wonka's miraculous chocolate factory. The real question about this book is how long you'll be able to hold off before reading it to your kids. Dahl's wonderfully evil sense of humour makes what could simply be a modern version of the cautionary tale into something exceptional. The writing sizzles, foams, spits and bubbles over. Wild and wonderful. Read it to them from six; read it alone from eight. Follow with Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, James and the Giant Peach and the BFG (all Puffin ÂŁ5.99)
Mary Poppins by PL Travers
No spoonfuls of sugar are necessary to help this classic tale slip down. Jane and Michael's new nanny turns out to be the intimidating Mary Poppins, who brings a little magic into the lives of children in the Edwardian middle classes' equivalent of "care"
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling Yes, the Harry Potter books are derivative and hierarchical, but Rowling's a genuinely witty writer with a terrific gift for naming things: one of the great pleasures of these books is the way they present the wizarding world as a parallel universe to that of us poor muggles. What's more, they are real page-turners and appeal to boys and girls equally. The second in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is the weakest; the third, The Prisoner of Azkaban the best, not least because the Dementors are so truly terrifying. But these kinds of arguments are academic: I've yet to meet a child who is resistant and plenty of adults find them just as spellbinding. Eight upward, but younger brothers and sisters are liable to get in on the act earlier, particularly if you read it to them.